Pressure on NCP to bring back Ajit Pawar



Pressure on NCP to bring back Ajit Pawar Zeenews Bureau

Mumbai: Pressure is mounting on the NCP to bring back Ajit Pawar into the Maharashtra Cabinet after a white paper on irrigation in the state reportedly gave a clean chit to the former deputy chief minister.

Ajit Pawar had been accused of under-performance and having played a role in the multi-crore Maharashtra irrigation scam.

The white paper on irrigation was tabled before the state Cabinet Thursday evening and reportedly stated that no irregularities had been committed in the implementation of 38 irrigation projects in the parched Vidarbha region. Ajit Pawar was the state water resources minister when these projects were sanctioned over a 10 year period beginning 1999.

Sources, meanwhile, said that the white paper was a status report and not an investigation report.

The white paper claimed that irrigation potential in the state had registered a 28 percent jump in the last 10 years.

Irrigation Minister Sunil Tatkare of the NCP made the presentation at a two-hour-long meeting at the state guest house Sahyadri here.

The irrigation potential has risen to 47.50 lakh hectares in 2010 from 37 lakh hectares in 2001, an increase of 28 percent, as per the white paper, the sources said.

The rise in irrigated area has been a record 72 per cent at 29 lakh hectares, they added.

Earlier this year, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan (who chaired yesterday's Cabinet meeting) had announced that the government would come out with a white paper on irrigation.

The announcement had ruffled feathers in the NCP camp, as the portfolio has always been with the Sharad Pawar-led party.

The paper, after approval by the Cabinet, would be tabled in the state legislature during the Winter Session starting at Nagpur from December 10.

Talking to reporters after the cabinet meeting, Chief Minister Chavan said that the white paper comprises two volumes.

It contains information on escalation of costs of various projects, delay in their completion, besides details about irrigation projects.

It also contains guidelines for the future direction of projects and will be available on the state government website, he said.

The irrigation scam had come to limelight in September this year. V Pandhare, chief engineer in the irrigation department, had talked on irregularities in the utilisation of funds while seeking a CBI investigation into the scam. Ajit Pawar had quit as the deputy chief minister on September 25 following continued attack from the Opposition.

(With PTI inputs)